Jack W. Szostak

Harvard University


Election Year: 1998
Primary Section: 21, Biochemistry
Secondary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

I am interested in the origins of biological catalysis, a question closely linked to the origins of life itself. The approach taken by my laboratory has been to devise methods for searching through extremely large numbers of different nucleic acid or protein molecules with random sequences in search of those rare sequences that encode binding or catalytic properties similar to biological macromolecules. Through the use of in vitro selection and directed evolution, we have been able to show that molecules comparable to antibodies and enzymes can be evolved in the laboratory from random initial populations, supporting the idea that life could have evolved through a combination of random chemical events coupled with selection (i.e., evolution). Our efforts in this area have recently led us to explore the relationship between information content and the functional activities of biopolymers.

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